App Review: Spotify

Spotify for desktop is a revelation in music, I'm sure you've heard about it, but if not check it out on the official website. Basically it gives you free streaming tracks from their entire music library, which at the time of this post stands at over 8 million tracks and counting. The free streaming is supplemented by ads, but the premium subscription has no ads, as well as a significantly higher streaming bitrate.

Ok so on with the review. Lets get the cost out of the way first. The actual android app is free to download from the market, however to sign into this app and use it you must be a premium subscriber. Premium subscriptions are £9.99 a month, and you are able to cancel any recurring payments if you want to try the service for the month. I'd like to note here that they also offer a 12-month subscription, but strangely do not offer any discount on the monthly price for taking out the longer plan.

Once you have the subscription, along with the ability to use the mobile app, you also get some desktop benefits as mentioned previously including offline playing of your playlists, no advertisements and a higher quality of stream (320kbs). For a full list of the premium desktop benefits be sure to check the spotify t&c's.

Ok onto the android app. The app is approx. 1.44mb in size, a fairly average sized app when compared to equivalent apps on the market. The market listing shows a number of features the app includes:

- Playing and synchronizing local files - scrobbling - Inbox - Feed - Top tracks - Starred tracks - Library - Filter for tracks in playlists

So lets expand on a few of these:

Playing and synchronizing local files Spotify mobile allows you to store playlists offline, meaning that the tracks will be stored (in an encrypted manner) on your phone for you to listen to whilst not connected to the internet, this is great news as it means you can listen to your music when not in a suitable 3G area, when abroad or simply when you don't want to use you data allowance streaming music. You are able to store up to 3,333 tracks at any one time on your phone provided you have the space on your sdcard.

Inbox The latest version of the Desktop spotify allows you to link up with friends also using spotify via facebook. You are able to drag and drop tracks to share with your friends. Items you share will become available in your friends inbox and vice versa, and the mobile app fully supports this feature really making spotify an extremely sociable tool, especially if a lot of your facebook friends are using the app too. Its worthy to note here that users of the free desktop app also get this feature on their desktop applications, so not limiting the number of friends to only those with the paid app.

Feed This lets you see what your friends have been listening to recently, and clicking on the feed items lets you play that particular track. The app fully syncs with the desktop application, including all your playlists and starred tracks, with chances to either application being seen within seconds on each installation.

Home As mentioned before, the android app looks very good, the UI is extremely sophisticated and you can tell from the look that this is a premium app. Lets take a look at the Home page, the first page you when upon opening the app. Here you can see 3 tabs showing a number of different items. You have the recently added albums to spotify first, the top played tracks followed by your personal feed.

Playlist The playlist button along the bottom of the screen shows your inbox, library (all tracks in any playlist), your starred tracks, your local music and all of your current playlists. The local music is an interesting feature, listing all the music on your phone that is not part of spotify. You are able to fully integrate your own music collection within spotify, adding your own tracks to spotify playlists, rating them, etc. You can easily set a playlist to be available offline here by either long pressing a particular playlist, or going into batch mode and ticking all those you wish to be available offline.

Search The search option allows you to search the massive spotify library of over 8 million tracks by track, album or artist name. The search is ok, but not fantastic. To give an example searching for 'Blink 182' found no results, with the actual band being listed as 'blink-182'. This is an area they could improve upon as it currently only seems to search for exact matches, not great if you are unsure of a spelling.

Now Playing The now playing screen is very well made, again giving a very sophisticated UI including the ability to swipe the album art to navigate tracks and giving easy access to finding more tracks/albums by the now playing artist. This screen also gives you the option of repeating all, and shuffling your tracks.

Settings There are a small number of settings, but the settings that are offered are extremely useful. Giving you the ability to completely force offline mode ensuring you will never pay any streaming bandwidth charges, syncing options over 3G or WiFi and setting the quality of music over streaming and via those tracks synced to your sdcard.

Conclusion Overall I really rate the Spotify app and the service it provides. Having access to over 8 million tracks in the palm of your hand anywhere that you have a network connection is incredible, this together with the ability to store tracks on your sdcard make it fully worth the £9.99 a month fee, especially if you use the desktop application too. I've found the ability to star a song, or quickly create a new playlist at work that is then instantly available on my phone on the train journey home, and on my home PC when I get home something I'm not sure I can live without, especially when the tracks in that playlist can be one of any 8 million tracks. The performance over 3G is also extremely good, especially taking into consideration you can change the stream quality if in a poor network area. I have found that the buffering is good enough to ensure that there is minimal if any loss in playback if losing connection for a few seconds too, and that gets a thumbs up from me.